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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

8 Ways to Change Your Self-Sabotaging Behaviors

8 Ways to Change Your Self-Sabotaging Behaviors

Self sabotaging. This is the tiny voice within us that quietly repeats the same sentence over and over again until we listen to it. It is not a sentence that enables us to live a joyful, successful life.

In fact, it is a sentence that holds us back from living life to the fullest, and when we listen to it, we forgo our dreams and goals. That one sentence, if we allow it to, can have a lot of control over how we live our lives.

“As I look into my life, I might ask, ‘Who is the person that represents the greatest threat to me?’ And if I happen to have a mirror around somewhere, I can rather quickly answer that question.” – Craig D. Lounsbrough

This quote describes pretty well what self-sabotage is all about. Self-sabotage is an internal process that we all have within ourselves, whether it be through thoughts or behaviors that keep us from what we desire most in life.

Are You Self-Sabotaging?

The one sentence that our subconsious keeps telling us is:

“You can’t do this.”

This tiny but powerful voice comes from our subconscious. Our subconscious is designed to protect us from harm and help us manage our fears. Now, when we use our subconscious in a productive way, it can help us navigate through tricky situations.

The problem, however, is that our subconscious can become very overprotective and over time can have a negative influence on us, holding us back from achieving success and happiness in our lives.

“Stop standing in your own way. Stop making excuses. Stop talking about why you can’t. Stop sabotaging yourself. Decide what direction you are going in and take action. One decision at a time, one moment at a time.” – Akiroq Brost

If you are nodding yes to all the things that Akiroq Brost is saying in his quote above, then that is a very good indication that you are self-sabotaging and preventing yourself from achieving all your goals and dreams in life.

What Are Self-Sabotaging Behaviors?

Many of us have engaged in self-sabotaging behaviors that have become habits. We allow these behaviors and thoughts to continually undermine our success and happiness. Some of our self sabotage is so subtle, it’s easy to miss.

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We often fail to recognize how our actions are hurting us. However, there are common actions, thoughts, and behaviors that signal that you are self-sabotaging.

Here’re 3 self-sabotaging habits and behaviors to be aware of:

1. Procrastination

If you are setting goals, working on projects, and not achieving anything – in fact, if you are doing lots of thinking but taking no action – then you are definitely procrastinating. In this case, self-sabotaging thoughts could definitely be ruling your life.

Learn more about procrastination: What is Procrastination and How to Stop It (The Complete Guide).

2. The Inner Critic

Negative self-talk: what you say to yourself – your inner dialogue – can have either a positive influence on your life or a negative influence. If you are constantly criticizing yourself and your self-talk is always negative, then self sabotage is in control of your life.

3. Perfectionism

Perfectionism is a very subtle self-sabotaging behavior because you can always rationalize why you should listen to that voice in your head saying, “It has to be the right time, or I am not quite ready to take action.”

Perfectionism stops you from moving forward and closes you down to any opportunities that will take you out of your comfort zone. Your subconscious is there to keep you safe, and it likes the comfort zone, so it will do anything to keep you there – hence pushing down all those thoughts that keep you from doing anything courageous and daring.

How to Stop Self-Sabotaging

“You can’t imagine just how much believing in negative thoughts is affecting your life…until you stop.” – Charles F. Glassman

Everyone self sabotages – it is what we humans do. Some of us, however, have learned how to manage our self-sabotaging behaviors so that they no longer stop us from achieving our goals and dreams in life.

We all have one gift that can help us take control of our lives for the better. This gift is our power of choice.

By taking action and using your power of choice, you are able to take control and proactively manage your self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors so they no longer have a negative influence on your life.

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You get to choose the life you want to live and how you want to live it. That is a powerful and wonderful thing to achieve in life!

Along with you using your power of choice, here are 8 steps you can start taking immediately to stop self sabotaging your success in life:

1. Understand Self Sabotage

To manage the behaviors that have a negative influence on your life, you need to understand what self sabotage means for you.

The reasons we engage in self-sabotaging behaviors are complex. However, the root of the problem is often low self-worth. This can lead to us feeling the need to be in control, or feeling inadequate or like a fraud.

Self sabotage can trick you into feeling that you are protecting yourself from disappointment or failure when, in reality, these behaviors are limiting you from reaching your true potential. The more aware you are of the negative thoughts and behaviors that control your life, the easier it is to decide what you want to do about them.

This is when your power of choice comes into play. Choose not to be the greatest obstacle in achieving your dreams.

2. Use Strategies to Help You Manage Avoidance and Procrastination

“The more you resist, the more it will persist.”

This is a saying that has stayed with me for many years. I am a great procrastinator, and the more I avoid taking action, the more my anxiety builds up. The best way to overcome procrastination is to have strategies in place that will force you to be accountable to take action.

For example, make a to-do list that outlines every step involved in achieving the project outcomes.

Or, have a daily to-do list that prioritizes the tasks and activities that must be achieved at the end of the day. Make sure that you have no more than 3 tasks that are a top priority and must be done.

Read more about how to make successful to-do lists: The Right Way to Make a To Do List and Get Things Done.

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3. Find Your Inner Positive Voice

What often holds us back in life is fear, and when we hear that inner critic telling us that we shouldn’t do something, we are afraid that it might be right! We start to believe that we don’t deserve happiness or that we are a failure.

The best way to manage your inner critic and the fear that comes with it is by not engaging in what it is saying. Meditation, mindfulness, exercise, celebrating success, keeping a gratitude journal, and helping others are examples of how you can build your inner voice to where it has a positive influence on your life.

New to mindfulness? Read 7 Simple Tricks To Bring More Mindfulness Into Your Life.

4. Change Your Patterns of Behavior

Everything you achieve is a direct result of your actions. Learn how to control your negative habits and your fear of failure will diminish. Take control your achievements and focus on those behaviors that will reduce your stress over time.

Recognize that your negative actions and behaviors come from a place of low self-worth. Understand your limitations and look for opportunities where you focus on self-improvement.

Focus on reducing your “mental clutter” because when you do this, you will find you will have more energy and time to correct the thinking and behaviors that are not serving you well.

5. Make Small, Meaningful Changes

No form of personal change happens overnight, so be prepared for the journey of change. The best way to stay on this journey is to accept that real change happens one step at a time.

Consistently appreciating the incremental improvements you are making will overtime produce a significant and long-lasting change for the better in your life. It can be very helpful to ask yourself, “How can I improve this by one percent?” rather than asking, “How can I eliminate this self-sabotaging habit?”

6. Set Goals and Plans

Everyone needs a destination or an idea of what they want to achieve, whether it be in life or while working on a project. Having set goals and plans in life gives you clarity and focus and as a result, helps you to stay on track.

You are less likely to get distracted, procrastinate, and be influenced by your inner self-critic. You will also find that you will be a more effective decision maker because you will have the clarity and the confidence to move forward, which is what effective decision making is all about.

Master the decision-making process! How to Make a Decision: The Secret to Making the Right Decision Fast.

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7. Surround Yourself with Positive People

When we are immersed in a life of self sabotage, we tend to inadvertently surround ourselves with people who are in the same predicament. These people feed off each other’s negative energy.

There is no hope for you to make the changes you need if you continue to surround yourself with negative people – they will suck your energy. The more positive and upbeat people you have in your life, the more chance you have to make the changes you need to move forward.

If you want to live a fulfilled and happy life, surround yourself with people who are living the kind of life you desire. Observe their behaviors, their actions, and their language and then integrate all the things you like into your life as well.

8. Practice Self Acceptance and Self Care

Making changes in your life requires time and energy. You can’t ask yourself to make big changes if your energy levels are depleted.

Find ways for you to replenish your energy levels so that you are able to make those changes you need to commit to your journey of change. Be honest with yourself and explore activities that give you the space to reflect and replenish.

There are so many things you can do, so go find that activity or exercise that works for you – go out and explore. Try different things: try yoga or meditation, join a gym, learn to ride a horse, learn to ski. The list can go on.

The one thing for you to keep in mind is that consistent activity brings positive energy into your life, and with this energy, you will find that your self-belief and self-worth will flourish. Self-sabotaging thoughts and behaviors will no longer have any control over your life.

The Bottom Line

“The most dangerous way we sabotage ourselves is by waiting for the perfect moment to begin. Nothing works perfectly the first time, or the first fifty times. Everything has a learning curve. Learn to learn, learn to fail, learn to learn from failing. And begin today. Begin now. Stop waiting.” – Vironka Tugaleva.

Self sabotaging is something that almost everyone struggles with at some point in their lives. The important thing is to acknowledge that it happens, remind ourselves that we are not to blame, and take steps to stop self-sabotaging behaviors. Doing this will help us life happier, more successful lives.

More Tips for Building a Positive Self

Featured photo credit: Callie Morgan via unsplash.com

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Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Last Updated on July 8, 2020

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you realize you aren’t really happy about this, wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while but I learned the art of saying no. Saying ‘no’ meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. I started to manage my time more around my own needs and interests. When that happened, I became a lot happier. And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying ‘no,’ you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey considered one of the most successful women in the world confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything. It was only when she realized that after years of struggling with saying no, I finally got to this question: “What do I want?”

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

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Warren Buffett views no as essential to his success. He said,

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made ‘no’ a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say ‘no.’

From an early age, we are conditioned to say ‘yes.’ We said yes probably hundreds of time in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work. We said yes get a promotion. We said yes to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because it feels better to help someone. We say yes because it can seem like the right thing to do. We say yes because we think that is key to success. And we say yes because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist like the boss.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we feel guilty we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message no matter where we turn is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

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How to Say No Without Feeling Guilty

Deciding to add the word ‘no’ to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say ‘no’ but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of ‘no’ that you could finally create more time for things you care about. But let’s be honest, using the word ‘no’ doesn’t come easily for many people.

The 3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time especially you haven’t done it much in the past will feel awkward.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

Remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it, who else knows about all of the demands on your time? No one. Only you are at the center of all of these requests. are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying ‘No’ Means Saying ‘Yes’ to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word ‘no’ into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying ‘no’ is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because FOMO even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

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Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better.

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say ‘No’

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say ‘yes’ because we worry about how others will respond or the consequences of saying no or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose respect from others. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying ‘no’ can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way. You might disappoint someone initially but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to.

4. When the Request Comes In, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time, or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say ‘no.’ There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your ‘No’ with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

A clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

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6. Consider How to Use a Modified ‘No’

If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” giving you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

Final Thoughts

Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

Use the request as a fresh request to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself. If you are the one placing the demand on yourself, try to evaluate the demand as if it were coming from somewhere else.

Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project but not by working all weekend. Or, tell someone in your family you can’t loan them money again because they never paid you back the last time. You’ll find yourself much happier.

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Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

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